With reports that the central government may extend the current 21-day lockdown on the recommendations of states doing the rounds, it is learnt that the construction of highways may be exempted from the total shutdown. Senior officials said some districts have asked the Centre to allow construction of roads as it essential for any economy.
“Some districts have said that areas which are away from the urban centres and where there have been minimal to zero Covid-19 cases may be exempted from the lockdown and construction activity should be allowed,” a person in the know told Business Standard.
It is believed that the Maharashtra government allowed the construction of its marquee project — Maharashtra Samruddhi Mahamarg, an expressway connecting Mumbai and Nagpur.
The expressway once constructed would be 701 kilometres long and will include wight lanes – four on each side.
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) are also in discussions with various states and states to evaluate the situation on the ground.
According to an official, some states and districts had sought permission to start road construction work where the density of population is low. They had also said the guidelines of social distancing would be followed to commence the projects.
It is also learnt that districts and states will not be a position to sustain the expenditure on the stay of migrant labour so they could instead be used for construction activity.
According to a government statement issued today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a meeting with state chief ministers said there seems to be “a consensus among the states on extension of lockdown by another two weeks”. This could mean that the Centre may go along with the state view for an extension of national lockdown till April-end.
Maharashtra became the third state on Saturday after Odisha and Punjab to extend the lockdown till April 30.
The Covid-19 death toll in India was 249, with total positive cases reaching 7,600 till Saturday afternoon, according to health ministry data.
In the 24 hours ending Friday, 38 new deaths were reported and 896 new cases came to light, even as the country entered the third week of the nationwide lockdown.